Dean Singleton, Denver Post publisher, shoots down rumors of national copy-editing center

In an interview last month about stepping down as CEO of MediaNews Group, Dean Singleton talked geographical expansion and consolidation. These words echoed after MediaNews bought the Longmont Times-Call's parent company days later -- and fears of job losses were heightened by rumors that the firm would be starting a national copy-editing center. But Singleton wants everyone to calm down.

The concerns were based on more than whispers. On Friday, Jim Romenesko's industry-news page at shared a press release from the Newspaper Guild with the ominous headline "MEDIANEWS APPROACHES GUILD ABOUT POTENTIAL PRODUCTION CONSOLIDATION." It reads:

WASHINGTON, DC -- MediaNews Group Executive Chairman Dean Singleton has contacted national leadership of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA) to discuss a potential national consolidation of the company's copy desks, pagination and front-end production.

We are seeking additional information from MediaNews to better understand what is being considered. At this point, we have no information to assess the timing of such a change, how many newspapers might be affected, or what such a radical shift in production would mean for current employees.

A union task force is being established consisting of leaders from all the Guild-represented work sites at MediaNews, including locations in Denver; York, Pa.; Northern and Southern California; and St. Paul, Minn. We hope to reach out to newsrooms at non-represented MediaNews operations as well. Our goal is to preserve jobs and quality journalism while engaging constructively with MediaNews.

We will keep our members and communities informed as we learn more details

Hours later, Singleton attempted to put out the fire with a memo from San Jose Mercury News editor Dave Butler that he shared with MediaNews Group editors and Romenesko. As you'll see below, the note is capped by a statement from Singleton:

Fellow MNG editors:

FYI. I spoke to Dean Singleton this afternoon about the statement put out by the Guild regarding a national copy editing center. Below is his response to their press release. I would further add that we have two projects going on that fly in the face of any "national" center. We have consultant Ken Harding working with editors in Denver, Salt Lake and St. Paul to figure out ways to make local news production more efficient at each paper, and just yesterday a group from BANG went to LANG to exchange ideas on how we might streamline our regional desks. We also have some mini-regional desks around the company and may, at some point, consider more. Like most other newspaper companies, regionalization -- where appropriate -- seems to work well. Would we rule out doing something else? Nope. But the capital costs of one center and the challenges involved seem pretty daunting to me. Please share this information as is appropriate.

-- Dave

Dean's statement:

The Newspaper Guild on Friday issued a press release referring to a casual phone conversation I had with Bernie Lunser, president of the Guild, concerning the future of the newspaper industry and how newspapers can better serve their readers in print, online and on mobile products.

Contrary to the assertions made in the release, there are no plans for "national consolidation" of MNG's editing processes.

While we constantly assess better ways to serve our readers in this changing and uncertain world, including the Guild in these considerations are not a part of those assessments.

The irresponsible Guild press release is a perfect example of why we don't.

There is no future for any of us if we continue to live in the past. Someone should tell that to the Guild.

-- Dean

Careful readers will note that although Singleton points out that there are "no plans" for copy-editing consolidation right now, he stops short of pledging never to consider such a project. As such, copy editors at MediaNews Group papers from the Denver Post to the Longmont Times-Call should breathe easier for the moment -- but they should understand that the national copy-editing-center concept could rise again.

More from our Media archives: "Q&A with Dean Singleton, MediaNews Group CEO and Denver Post owner."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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